- Orchestral/Large Orchestra
Symphony No. 5 was completed in 1985 in response to a commission from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
In Standford's words, "At that time there were conflicting interests among composers, some drawn to extreme complexities, and others exploring a post-modernism that explored tonalities and quotation. This work involved quotation on a grand scale ‘as if the composer could not escape the nightmare haunting of past music’.
There are six movements, each lasting about 5-6 minutes. The first and last are made of the same spasmodic, nervous materials, unsettled not by the sounds, but by the silences that the bursts of sound try to hide.
These movements are as unsettled as the two songs are calm and uneventful, with reference to the current popular music scene. The soprano sings verses from the Latin collection 'Carmina Burana', first about the return of 'much longed for spring' with its fresh and flower-clad meadows, and then of summer and the maidens who weave their dances along the byways. Two lines by the 12th c. poet Walter of Chatillon impose themselves - 'Who does not know he rest? Description is surpassed…’
The third movement is the core of the whole symphony. It's the only real sonata movement, because it is built upon the first movement of Mozart's G-minor symphony. But here, as in the final movement too, all the quotations are breathless and like a bitter fleeting nightmare in which too many fragments of old music impose upon the new.
The fifth movement is a wild dance parody, based on an English folksong which eventually emerges calmly as a song, again with latin words from Carmina Burana, about leaves falling, the greenness perishing as winter's frost punishes all tender things."